Russia features some good, second-tier talent for 2014 draft

By Alessandro Seren Rosso

Vladimir Tkachyov - Team Russia

Photo: Omskiye Yastrebi Omsk forward and 2014 prospect Vladimir Tkachyov was one of the more offensively productive players for Russia during the recent Subway Super Series (courtesy of Derek Leung/Getty Images)

After having eight players selected during the 2013 NHL Draft, a decrease from 11 during the 2012 selections (three of them in the first round: Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Andrei Vasilevsky), Russia might see a rebound in the number of recruited players as the class of ’95- and ’96-born players is very solid and most likely better than the ’94 group.

That being said, a lot of leading players from the ’96 class opted to play in North America (Ivan Barbashev, Maxim Lazarev, Ivan Nikolishin, etc.), therefore leaving Russia with less leading players for this age group. But, as we’ll discover during this article, there are still some good exceptions playing in Russia that could have their names called at the 2014 NHL Draft.

Ilya Dervuk, D, Omskiye Yastrebi Omsk
6’0”, 170 lbs.

A reliable two-way defenseman, Ilya Dervuk is an interesting player with a good attitude who is currently playing for Omskie Yastreby Omsk, the team that won the past two MHL titles and in August added the World Junior Club Cup, a tournament which included teams from the CHL and USHL. Dervuk is improving at good strides, even recently being dressed for his first few KHL games. Avangard isn’t having a good season, so head coach Milos Riha decided to give the young defender a chance, albeit with reduced ice time and exposition. Like many other Russian players, Dervuk needs to develop physically and lacks a bit in his positional play. He surely needs some seasoning before playing pro hockey.

Vladislav Kamenev, W/C, Stalnye Lisi Magnitogorsk
6’2”, 203 lbs.

Kamenev is a good-sized, strong winger with good technique and skating who recently was called up to his KHL team and even scored his first KHL goal. He is a defensively aware player and can be very useful during penalty killing situations. Kamenev is one of the few Russian top prospects who can actually become an option for checking line duties, even at the NHL level, but he needs to keep on developing and playing more games in the KHL in order to get more experience.

Roman Khalikov, D, Molodaya Gvardiya Donetsk
6’2”, 185 lbs.

Khalikov is an interesting two-way defenseman who originally hails from Kazakhstan, specifically the Ust-Kamenogorsk hockey school, a very productive academy that has developed several NHL players (Nik Antropov, Evgeny Nabokov, Anton Khudobin, Alexander Perezhogin, etc.) along with producing top talent for the Russian leagues. Khalimov then moved to Novosibirsk, then again to Kazan. After playing one year in the Ak Bars system he was drafted by the Ukraine-based team Donbass Donetsk as Kazan had run out of protection picks. Ak Bars were definitely disappointed to lose a good and promising player like Khalikov, while Donetsk received a very interesting prospect. Khalikov plays now on the first defensive pairing in the MHL, where he faces players up to three years older than him. He likes to shoot and has good size, but he should add some physical play and better positioning to become more interesting to North American teams.

Sergei Korobov, G, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg
6’2”, 180 lbs.

Korobov is a promising goalkeeper who hails from the northern city of Murmansk, the same as the great Vladimir Konstantinov. Korobov moved to the SKA organization and this season has had the chance to play in the MHL, facing players who are on average 2-3 years older than him. But, although he has played a few games in the MHL, the SKA organization is very stacked at the goaltending position (Team Russia Subway Super Series starting goalie Ivan Nalimov is from SKA, as well), therefore he won’t be playing too much at the top junior level this year. However, he regularly plays for the national team, where he’s gaining experience while posting very good statistics. He’s a rapid, agile goalie with good coverage of the net and is right now the top candidate for starting goalie duties at the U18 WJC.

Artur Lauta, LW, Omskiye Yastrebi Omsk
6’0”, 175 lbs.

Differently from many other Russian junior players, Lauta does have experience in North American hockey as he played two years within the Little Caesars organization. He is now a regular on the Russia-96 national team, but he hasn't stood out to this point. He is likely playing below his abilities right now, but he is a very talented player who plays a pass-first kind of game and has a good set of hands with very good skating abilities. Lauta had excellent statistics a couple of years ago, but his progress then slowed down a bit. He needs to rebound, but his offensive talent makes him a very interesting prospect.

Eduard Nasybullin, D, Bars Kazan
5’9”, 160 lbs.

Nasybullin is a very gifted offensive defenseman who, just like many other Russian prospects from this series, is undersized and therefore will be handicapped during the selection days. Nasybullin showed some good leadership abilities as he is often the captain or alternate captain on the teams that he plays, a trait that could be very interesting to North American teams. Nasybullin now plays in Russia's top junior league after playing one season in the second-tier league, but still being a part of the Ak Bars organization. He’s among the best defensemen in Russia in his age group, but needs to become bigger and stronger.

Vladimir Tkachyov, W, Omskiye Yastrebi Omsk
5’8”, 150 lbs.

Tkachyov is an extremely gifted offensive player with great speed and violinist-like hands. As North American audiences witnessed during the recent Subway Super Series, he likes to dangle and dribble and can score highlight-reel goals like the one he scored against the QMJHL All-Star team. The flamboyant winger, however, is rumored to have some attitude issues, like the conflict he had this summer when he and his agent used the CHL as leverage to get a regular spot with his team, Avangard Omsk, in the KHL. He played only two games at the senior level, then was demoted to the junior team as the team’s head coach publicly stated that he needs to learn to play defense before having a legit shot at the big team. He also has to get some meat on his bones as he is very small at 5’8” and 150 pounds, but he’s a very flashy player and he showed during the Super Series that he is able to escape big hits using his great skating abilities. He wasn’t called by Mikhail Varnakov to the WJC preparation camp, which was a bit of a surprise because he’s obviously very talented and did play well against the CHL all-star teams.

Honorable mentions:
Pavel Kraskovski, F, Loko Yaroslavl
Andrei Kuzmenko, F, Krasnaya Armiya
Arkhip Nekolenko, F, MHC Spartak
Maxim Sidorov, G, Loko Yaroslavl
Yegor Tsvetkov, D, Loko Yaroslavl
Daniil Vovchenko, F, Almaz Cherepovets

Follow Alessandro Seren Rosso on Twitter via @AlexSerenRosso